Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Knocking on My Door

We have just celebrated Christmas 2017 and another year is drawing to a close.  It is that time of the year when we take a look at the year which has passed.  We take stock of the ups and downs, the good and the bad and the progress we have made.  It is a time of quiet reflection and usually a time for making some resolutions for the coming year.

I, myself, am pondering the Christmas story and the significance of it in my life.  We are all familiar with this event on the Christian calendar.  For most of us the story starts with an expectant mother and her husband making their way to Bethlehem.  Arriving in the city after a tiresome journey, the husband desperately looks for a place where they can rest for the night.  However, everywhere he inquires he is turned away.  The places are full.  There is no place for the Son of God to be born. Finally, an innkeeper shows the pair to a stable.  So often the Lord also knocks on our door.  He calls to us to open our lives to him and to give him a place in our busy schedules, but every time we turn him away.  We are too busy and our lives are filled with so many things that we have no time or place for him.  We erroneously believe that there will be more time later for that.  We just want to first do this or that before we welcome him into our daily lives.  We first need to make it to the top of our careers, marry the perfect spouse, raise our children, travel the world and spend our spare time pursuing all the pleasures the world is offering us, before we invite the Lord to stay.

Maybe it is time to open the door and let him in.  Maybe it is time for him to sit at our table, to take up permanent residence in our lives and to be the guest of honour.  Listen, he is standing at your door right now, knocking...

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Are You Listening?

I came across this Turkish proverb today: "Speaking is silver; listening is gold."
I thought about this and realized that it is indeed true. Maybe the saying "Silence is golden" comes from this proverb.  
Communication is an integral part of human existence.  It is essential.  From the minute a baby is born, it starts to develop its communication skills.  A mother becomes finely tuned in to her baby's every little sound and she listens closely and pays careful attention to its needs.  Communication consists out of verbal and non-verbal communication.  Talking and listening is its key components, but a hug or a gentle touch can speak just as loudly.  Most people are quite adept at talking, in fact, most people love talking, but unfortunately they are not so keen to listen.  However, it is actually our skills at listening that makes communication more successful.  When we listen, we learn things about the other person that can help us to continue with the conversation.  When we listen, we have the opportunity to observe what the words used are not communicating.
However, listening does not come easily, despite the fact that we have been created with twice the tools to listen than what we have to talk. So what does it mean to really LISTEN?  I have made an acronym out of it:

L = Look the other person in the eyes.
I = Intently hear the words and observe the body language
S = Stay quiet
T = Tune out other thoughts and distractions
E = Ensure you understand correctly
N = Never interrupt

Remembering these six points will greatly enhance your listening skills.  To effectively listen it is necessary for you to take time away from what you are busy with.  Put away your tools, your book or your phone and pay attention to the person talking to you.  You have to make eye-contact with the person.  You have to focus on the speaker and focus on what is being said and HOW it is being said.  You have to clear your mind of your own ideas and perceptions.  Do not just pretend to be listening, the other person will quickly catch on and the conversation will be unsuccessful.  Being busy with other things while having a conversation is very distracting to both you and the person talking and will not instill a sense of trust with the other person.  Do not ever judge the conversation, or what is being said, this will make you unable to truly hear what is being communicated.  Be careful not to drift off, stay focused. Never listen just so that you can comment and talk about your own experience and never take it personally.  Body language can often give more away about a particular situation than the words themselves, therefore it is important to carefully observe the body language of the speaker.  Remember, listening to somebody does not mean you agree with their point of view, it just means that you are an ear and a shoulder to cry on.

We all need somebody to talk to, to share our joy and heartache with.  Somebody that will not judge us, force advice on us or reject us, but are just willing to listen.  We do not even want somebody to fix our problems for us, but just somebody that will hear us.  The world is full of people desperately crying out to be heard. Having somebody to talk to make us feel warm, loved and cared for.  It is like finding an oasis in an arid land.  It helps to lighten our burdens.  For some it can even be a lifeline. Let us try to become people who listen twice as much as what we talk.  Let us be that soft place to fall for a weary friend.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Behind The Wall

We as humans are fairly quick studies.  Through the ages, in order to survive and prosper, we had to search for answers and solutions to problems. We had to discover and learn everything we could about the world we live in.  As we have gathered information we have adapted to new ideas and environments.  Today, more than ever, we are constantly processing information and evolving.  All in order to ensure our survival as humans.  In fact, survival is the single most powerful need, one all of us have in common.  Whenever we feel threatened, or fear danger, our first instinct is to protect ourselves, either by fleeing or fighting.  This urge to protect ourselves is not only limited to our physical well-being, we also take care to protect ourselves emotionally and spiritually.

It is this need for safety which have compelled people throughout history to build forts and castles.  Villages would be surrounded by huge walls and battlements.  In modern society we hide behind walls, electrical fences and security barriers.  Emotionally, we build walls around our hearts. Behind these walls we feel safe.  No one can breach our defenses. Nobody can exploit our vulnerability.  They cannot hurt us and they cannot see our pain.  There is a lot of good to be said about the protection the walls give us. However, living behind these walls comes at a price.  There are distinct disadvantages.  It is impossible to see beyond these walls.  We become cut-off from reality.  We are in danger of becoming lonely and cynical.  We are unable to see the beauty which lies beyond the walls.  Those on the outside can also not see our beauty.  We become an oddity to them.  In the process we become more and more isolated.  We end up missing out on opportunities and friendships.  We may even miss out on love.

Yes, certainly, the chances of getting hurt are far less living ensconced behind our barricades, but so are our chances of finding happiness, friendship, love or adventure.  We become prisoners of our own fears.  In the end we might be alive, but have failed to live.  A favourite quote of mine is the one by Alfred Lord Tennyson : 
'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

We are almost at the end of another year.  It is time to take stock.  maybe you have suffered heartache this year, maybe you have had a difficult time the past few months?  Maybe you feel as if you want to retreat from the outside world and build a barrier between you and everyone else?  Then I urge you to listen to your heart for a moment.  You see, Fear whispers "It is dangerous", Knowledge shouts "It is foolish", but the heart begs "Give it one more chance."

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Have Faith

The end of 2017 is approaching so fast! It feels as if I am on board of a hurtling train and it is scary. Most of us,I am sure are feeling pressured on so many levels. Financially, politically, environmentally and personally we are subjected to trials and tribulations. We may be  feeling overwhelmed by all the problems and choices we are facing. It may feel as if we are being pulled in a hundred different directions at once. It is at such times we often feel like giving up hope. The words, "what is the use?", echo through our thoughts. Doubt and fear stretch their ugly tentacles out into our thoughts and threathen to take our hearts and dreams hostage. We may even become skeptical. Being skeptical is the archenemy of hope, it taints our beliefs and shackles our joy. We often hide our fear of failure, of getting hurt behind the ugly mask of skepticism. It is the armour of somebody who is scared of their own vulnerability. It is their hideout from disappointment. If this is how you are feeling I want to tell you about a powerful antidote. No, I cannot give you any guarantees that you will not be hurt, or that you will be successful or be given all the right answers. I cannot make any promises. However, I can tell you that this antidote will lift your spirit, it will give you peace and it will guide you. It is faith. Faith casts away fear, and it tramples despair. Faith lifts us on wings of hope and it restores our energy. Have faith that God will guide you, He will answer your prayers and when you walk close to him he will protect your heart. Listen, listen closely...hear the whisper : have faith.

Monday, 2 October 2017

I Choose Beauty

October.  The most beautiful month.  That is what a South African poet, C. Louis Leipoldt, called October and I have to agree with him.  This morning when I woke up I was aware of the soft sunlight just tinting the grey morning sky and birds were happily twittering outside our bedroom window.  Their song of gratitude humbled me.  They are filled with such joy and they trust implicitly in the goodness of the day to come.

In my garden I have a pot with violets.  They give a delightful splash of colour to the surroundings still struggling to shake the grip of the drought.  Their gay purple blooms lift my spirit.  On closer inspection I notice that some of the leaves are bruised and broken and some of the petals have blemishes.  Yet, despite these imperfections, it is a beautiful display joy and abundance, a testimony of the beautiful creation of God.  Amongst the blooms I notice a spider spinning its web, I see a worm wriggling deeper into the ground and I behold how a butterfly gently settles on one of the flowers. Its yellow spotted wings quivering in the light breeze.

Looking at this microcosm, I realized that it resembles our lives.  Each of us is a flower planted in the garden of life.  Everyone of us has a few blemishes, some of us are a bit broken or bruised, we have worms and spiders in our soil and amongst our leaves, but that is not the sum total of who we are.  We are also beautiful, we have a sweet fragrance and we can give shelter and sustenance to others.  Most of us are quick to notice the faults and mistakes of others, we enjoy pointing out their weaknesses and revel in their misfortune.  We seldom look for the good in others. We appoint ourselves as judges over the lives of others and pat ourselves on the shoulder, because we are so perfect.  In the process, we become destroyers of beauty.  We are like a swarm of locusts that devour everything in our path.  Where does it stop?
It stops with me.  Today I will choose beauty.  I will search for that which is good.  I will hold onto every morsel of goodness and I will celebrate even the tiniest piece of beauty crossing my path.  We are all a little bit fragile, delicate like the wings of a butterfly.  I will be a shelter for all who need a haven from the storms, and even though my petals are a bit blemished I will still bloom as beautifully as possible in order to be a witness of my Creator.  Even if the whole world only see my imperfections, my Creator knows the very essence of my being and I was good enough for Him.

Today, please choose beauty with me.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

As Constant As The Wind...

Change.  It is a word we are all familiar with.  It is a condition we have all experienced in some way or another.  It is something most of us resent or resist.  Yet it is the one thing in life which is inevitable.  Every single day, every single minute we are in a process of change.  Seasons change, people change, climates change, political parties change, we are surrounded by change, it is interwoven into the very fabric of our lives.  Most of it is so subtle, the effect of it is only visible ten years down the line, some of it is radical, sudden, catching us by surprise. 
Change is the one constant in Life.  Whether we welcome change with open arms or try to resist it with all our being, every change comes with its joys and its regrets.  We gain something and we lose something, it is like the ocean tide with its high and low tides. 
Change cannot be avoided, all we can alter is how we adapt to it and how we utilize it.  A quote from Richard Bach says it so well:  "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the Master calls the butterfly", it is all about point of view.
Every encounter we have in life, every situation we find ourselves in brings about change in us, but also in those we pass by.  Do we bring about positive change, or do I deposit seeds of destruction? Realizing that we are part of the process of the constant change taking place, helps us understand the responsibility that comes with it.  We will most likely never know what change it is that we have helped create in others, we will never be able to press the "undo" button, therefore it is important that we tread carefully in the lives of others.
Contemplating "change" makes me again realize how precious "now" is.  "Now" is what we have, appreciate it, enjoy it, love it, LIVE it.  It never comes this way again.  That is why I am now going to post this and going to hug my husband who is here NOW!
I leave you with this well known quote from Reinhold Niebuhr:
"God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage to change the things I can'
And the Wisdom to know the difference."

If you flutter by here, please feel free to share some changes you've had to face in your life and what has been the result of it.  I'll be happy to hear from you.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

A Little Fragile

Butterflies enchant us with their beauty.  The way they float effortlessly on the breeze captivate our attention.  Butterflies are often depicted in jewelry items, made from delicate silver or exquisite gold.  They are painted in soft pastels or vibrant colours.  They carved from wood or gently formed from clay or porcelain.  It does not matter what they are made from, they remain an object of beauty and they are all a little fragile.
It is a quality we as humans share with these sweet creatures. Fragility.  We are all a little fragile.  On the outside we often seem strong and even a little fierce, but beneath that hardy exterior most of us are fragile to some degree or other.  
However, in this fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world we have become insensitive to people's feelings.  We expect them to handle anything that is thrown their way.  Being rude has become the new "funny".  Our so-called "speaking-the-truth" is nothing more than an excuse for being tactless. We disregard people who are sensitive, and view them as being weak.  
Relationships and friendships are fragile, because they are made up out of flawed and fragile people.  Often we take our relationships and our friendships for granted.  We fail to recognize them as precious and not easily replaceable.  In our easily disposable world we think that we can replace any relationship as easily as we can pick a can of beans off the supermarket shelf.  We believe -erroneously- that being in a relationship entitles us to treat our partner or friend with disrespect, selfishness and abuse, whether it be physically, verbally or emotionally.  We believe it is our right to take and give little in return.  
However, I was brought up to value every relationship for its special brand of uniqueness.  One of the things my sister-in-law taught me as a little girl was to keep your friendliness cheap, but your friendship expensive.  It took me a very long time to understand that, but today I still apply that rule to my relationships.   I am friendly towards anybody crossing my path, but quite careful when engaging in any relationship.   However, once I have formed a friendship, I try to be a friend for life.  Even when distance separates me from my friends, I keep them in my heart and prayers.  Every relationship, every friendship I have ever had, has been valuable to me.  I carry their fragrance with me, entangled within my soul. I hold them still dear.  I have learned from them, grown through them and celebrate them.

Every relationship, whether it is romantic, parental or platonic, is built on  five cornerstones.  These are:
Companionship - togetherness, sharing similar interests as well as supporting the other person's interests. Mutual respect and trust are key components of any companionship.
Conversation - Being honest and open with one another.  Telling your friend/s how you feel, but also listening.
Compassion - It goes beyond caring about the other person, it involves being tolerant of their faults, forgiving their mistakes and being sensitive to their issues.
Comedy - Laughter is the best medicine, they say.  Relationships need humour. Being able to laugh at ourselves, each other as well as with one another is essential to our well-being.  Laughter relieves stress.  A smile can reach across a divide.  Humour can strengthen the bonds of a friendship.
Counsel - this is a very valuable part of any relationship. Advice from somebody who has our best interests at heart is valuable beyond measure.  Loving guidance gives us a feeling of security and worth.  

Unfortunately, some relationships are not meant to last.  Some are only seasonal.  People pass through our lives for a brief moment, like a shooting star.  Even these I value, although they often leave me sad.  They leave with a part of me.  I very seldom forge friendships without caring deeply.  My mother taught us to be careful with people's feelings lest we trample their wings, thus I try to tread softly through their lives. I try to be a balm for their hurt and a breeze beneath their fragile wings.  I always try to let the sun into their lives, and to help them to fly away from the shadows. 

Yet, sometimes that is not enough.  Despite one's best efforts, some relationships have a Best Before Date. I never thought so before.  I always believed that if I give my best, if I am the least, tolerant and forgave easily any friendship should last a lifetime. It seems that I was wrong.  Sometimes my wings are also a bit fragile.  I do not handle rejection well.  Then I came across something Celeste Erlach wrote:
"Not all friendships are meant to endure, and that’s OK. As much as I wish I could make everyone happy and be lifelong friends with everyone, it’s not realistic. I’m going to embrace my lifetime relationships. I will encourage my season relationships. And I’m going to be grateful for my reason relationships." http://www.scarymommy.com )

Thus, today I would like to say thank you to my Lifetime friends, I love you, you are simply amazing, even if we so seldom spend time together, you are always within my heart, my fondest memories.  To my friends of a season, be it Spring, Summer, Winter or Autumn, the scent of you will always linger, you still fill my thoughts with the beauty of your being.  And those of you who passed through my life for a reason, I hope you too met me to fulfill a purpose in your lives.  Be blessed one and all!

Monday, 7 August 2017

More Than Rubies

We, as humans, like to evaluate everything in life.  We learn from birth to attach a certain value to things.  We attach price tags to everything.  We weigh and calculate everything from the physical to the spiritual according to our own and other people's standards. We even equate time with money.  Sadly, we even measure our own self-worth and usually find ourselves unworthy by the world's standards.  We judge ourselves and summarily dismiss ourselves as unworthy.  Discarded and de-valued.

However, when God evaluates us, He considers our value as far above that of rubies.  Rubies in Sanskrit are called Ratnaraj, meaning King of precious stones.  Rubies were worn by royalty and a highly sought after gem. They are valued for their stunning beauty as well as the mystical powers associated with them. They were believed to bestow success, wealth and protection as well as wisdom, and power to the wearer.  Some say that the ruby is the most precious of the twelve stones created by God.  Therefore, when the Lord says that we are more precious than rubies, we are indeed valuable. 

In Proverbs we read that a good wife's value is far more than rubies.  A woman is more valuable than a crown of precious rubies, she is an asset for above material value, priceless.  If the Lord, the Creator of all, the Creator of women, attach such a high value to us, we have no right to judge ourselves by worldly standards and label ourselves as worthless, or as not good enough.  We are good enough, we are precious and it is our duty to raise our daughters as women who acknowledge their own self-worth.  We have to teach our daughters to believe in their own worthiness, to value themselves as precious.  

Let us during this month re-evaluate ourselves through the eyes of our Maker and realize that we have been wonderfully and uniquely created.  We are extraordinary human beings and have so much to contribute to life and to our families.  Let us celebrate the beauty of being a woman.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Blessed Are The Meek

I woke up this morning to a beautiful mild winter's day. I always feel invigorated early in the morning, excited for the day to come.  I am usually the first person to wake up, even before the alarm clock.  So I took the time to read my scripture for the day.  It came from Matthew 5:5 (NIV)

"Blessed are the meek for,  they will inherit the earth."

 As I was contemplating this, the early morning news came on and brought with it reports of war, industrial strikes, murders and retaliations. I realized how far we as a human race have strayed from the concept of being 'meek'.  The world we are living in today teaches us to take a stand for our human rights.  We march the streets with placards shouting slogans against every conceivable infringement of our rights. Often these protests result in violence and riots.  In the name of our rights we break one another down, we plunder and destroy. In the name of human rights criminals, rapists and murderers have more rights than the victims of the crime.  Of course I am not against human rights and standing up for them, but I am wondering if how we go about it, is really the way we should do it?

Think again about this sentence: 

"Blessed are the meek..."

Most people understand meekness to mean weakness.  We think of somebody who is meek as a person without spunk, unable to think for himself, feeble, dull and powerless.  Yet when we look at the Bible's definition of meek we discover a totally different scenario.  The Bible translates "meekness" as "strength under control".  When a person is thus referred to as "meek', it does not imply that he is weak, but rather that he is a person who has control over his actions, his temper and his reactions.  Meekness is one of the fruits of the Spirit and through an attitude of meekness we testify that the Spirit of the Lord is at work within and through us.  Moses was one of the most influential people of the Bible, yet he is said to have been a meek servant of God.  He had submitted himself to the Lord's will and obeyed His decrees with patience and humility.

Being meek does not mean that we allow the world to walk all over us, or give people the right to take advantage of us.  It does not mean that we condone injustice or persecution, or are too weak to stand by our beliefs and convictions.  It means that we submit our will to the will of God.  Our actions are governed by our faith and our submission to the Spirit of God.  When we take action it is always under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

It is easy to go out into the world with fists flying, cursing and standing our ground with a show of power.  We are quick to threaten, we write long letters to the newspapers about injustices and we sue those who wrong us with ease.  It is far more difficult to control our tempers, and to seek the Lord's guidance.  Being meek and gentle go directly against what the world demands that we do.  Yet, if we act with meekness, when we exhibit strength under control, our reward will be peace as is promised in 

Psalms 37:11 - But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

Go then, walk in the strength of meekness and gentleness, and conquer your adversaries by the power of the Spirit within you.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Come along, let's run!

So, you want to become a runner?
Well, if you are anything like me, you would answer "It is something I have dreamed about, but me, run, NEVER!"
Today, people find it hard to believe that I never used to run.  They are astounded that I evolved from walking 2 minutes and running 1 minute, to running marathons.  To tell you the truth, so am I!  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would be possible!  Four years ago I would have called you crazy for even just thinking I could run 5k's!

So how did I do it?  This is a question I am often asked.  First of all, I am NO expert.  Any advice or information I share I only share from personal experience and nothing more.  However, this morning at our local parkrun I was once again asked how did I do it, thus I decided to share some thoughts on running, here on my blog.

My journey started three years ago when my daughter announced that she would love to do one of the world's most beautiful half marathons, the Two Ocean's in Cape Town.  However, she did not want to do it alone, and as we know mothers never want to disappoint our children, so I said that I will do it with her...

...as soon as I said it, the shock set in.  The first thing I did the following Monday was to visit our doctor.  So MOST importantly - go see your doctor, tell him about your plan and let him do a full health assessment.  I was declared healthy if not fit. (I think I was secretly hoping he would declare me insane!)

Walking out there I was at a loss of how to proceed further.  Any previous attempt at running I had made started with me running at full speed out of our yard and collapsing near death three blocks down the road, thus ending with me declaring that running was not for me!  Now, I realized that I needed a plan.  At the beginning of the year my sister-in-law had sent me a walk/run program.  I went home looking for it and started following it.

So, after getting yourself checked out by a physician, the second thing to do, is to find a good program suited to your needs.  I am a firm believer in the walk/run program for novices like myself.  It slowly but steadily introduces a person to running, keeping injuries and despair at bay.  Jeff Galloway is the father of this program and I share the link to his website below.  Please check it out.


The very next day, April 2014, I started the program.  I still remember that it was quite a hot day and I felt as if the 1 minute running was never going to end.  Half an out later I was back home, having done 20 minutes of walking and 10 minutes of running.  My journey had started.

The third most important piece of advice I have to give you is this:  DO NOT put it off.  Get out there now, and DO IT!  I forced myself to stick to the program by setting a reminder on my phone for every time I have to go train, and no matter what I was busy with at the time, I would stop doing it and go run.

As my daughter and I are living more than a 100km apart, we were not able to run together, but as soon as either of us went for our run we would let the other one know.  It helped to keep us motivated and focused on our mutual goal.  So, my fourth piece of advice: get yourself a running buddy or supporter.  Share your goal with them and enlist their help to motivate you.  Joining a running club is a good idea. Running with like-minded people is inspiring.  Often helpful advice is shared among the members.  Running in a group helps those kilo's to pass by in the blink of an eye. No, you do not have to be a strong runner before you join a club.  Running clubs are always happy to help novices in the sport.

That is it for today.  I hope this has helped and inspired you to take up the sport of running.  Watch this blog for some more thoughts on running next week.  I leave you with this thought:

Thursday, 20 July 2017

You Are Worthy!

We live in a time of financial upheaval.  The cost of living is rising at an alarming rate.  When comparing the prices of goods from a year ago to today's prices it is clear that everything has increased considerably.  Money is very important in our daily lives and we are constantly looking for ways to make more money as well as ways to save money.  We want the best possible product and service for as little money as possible.  We value most things in terms of their monetary value.  However, we are all aware that there are many things which money cannot buy.  Yet we still attach a certain value to it.

We even weigh ourselves and attach a value label to ourselves.  Sadly, we most often de-value ourselves. We think of ourselves as unworthy.  I have an art student who has really made phenomenal progress in a very short time.  I asked her recently why she is not using her sketchbook, but only draws on scrap pieces of paper?  Her answer was that she was not good enough yet to spoil the pages in her sketchbook.  I asked her when she thought she would be "good enough"?  She did not answer me, but I could see the answer in her eyes: "never".  She will never think of herself as good enough to draw in her sketchbook.  She deemed her work and talent unworthy of a R60 sketchpad.

Most of us are guilty of this.  We under-value ourselves.  We wait for somebody to put a stamp of approval on our work, we wait for an award or the accolade of people before we would think of ourselves or our work as good enough.  We compare our work, our talents and ourselves to others and according to our own observations, we attach a price tag to our efforts.  A price tag which states "not good enough"!  We believe that we have to earn the approval of others to be worthy.  We believe that, only if, we are first over the line, or in the top of our class or made president of the company or get the award for achiever of the year have we earned the right to make a mark on the sketch pad of our lives.

This misguided evaluation of ourselves leads to disappointment and despair.  We start to believe that we are a failure.  In the end, we give up trying and we give up on our dreams.  Yes, it is important to measure ourselves in order to take note of our progress and to evaluate the areas where we may have to improve.  We have to take stock of our abilities and our weaknesses in order to determine the areas of our lives which we have to still develop further, but it is important to give ourselves recognition and to evaluate ourselves fairly.  We have to give ourselves credit and reward ourselves along the way.  Be proud of your own achievements and progress.  Value yourself for the uniquely gifted person you are.  Above all acknowledge that you are worthy.  Come on, take out that blank book you have been saving, and make your mark in it with a bold hand!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Tribute to Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandel

                            Today is the birthday of one of the world's most amazing human beings,                              Mr. Nelson Mandela, and I would like to share a poem I have written after                 his death in December 2013.

Tribute to Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

Rejoice people of Thembu,
lift your hands and shout, Mvezo,
for a child of pride and joy
has been born
in your humble village.

Lift your head, oh Africa,
hold your breath and wait,
deliverance is on your doorstep,
justice is awaiting its day.

A young cub has risen,
a mighty lion has roared
and his touch has transformed
the hearts of all races,
bringing democracy
to our dark continent.

Son of Africa,
prisoner and president,
father of a mighty nation,
we honour you.

You filled our eyes
with a new vision,
you brought hope
to your children,
reconcilliation and peace
were upon your lips.

Today we mourn,
we bow our heads and pray:
Nkosi sikelel' iAfica,
Hamba Kahle, Madiba.

© Charmaine Fourie, All rights reserved.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Created to Be.

All children are artists.
The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. 
-Pablo Picasso

Today I want to talk about something which is very close to my heart.  Creativity.  The dictionary in short describes it as "the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work", and although I do not disagree, creativity is so much more than that.

In the past creativity was a topic which was seldom discussed.  People paid little attention to it, as linear thinking was seen to be of greater importance.  Logical thinking was encouraged and schools focused on developing mathematical skills and teaching students to understand the natural order of everything in life.  Creativity was neatly labeled and put into a box, to be taken out once or twice a week during the art class.  Even then students were taught about doing art in a certain way. After all, ducks were yellow and trees green, and that was that.  The result was that many generations grew up believing that creativity belonged to a very small, select and ultimately weird group of people.  They accepted the label which had been given to them by their parents, teachers or society:
"You are not creative."

Today this idea of creativity belonging to only an eclectic group has changed.  More and more people are acknowledging their own creativity.  Unfortunately, far too many people still believe that they are not at all creative.  The truth, however, is that everybody is born creative.  It is a part of our DNA.  We are the creations of a Devine Creative Being, thus, since we have been created in His image, it just stands to reason that we, too, must be creative.  Yet, most of us grow up believing that we are not creative.  It is a lie we have been conditioned to believe and we hold onto it despite our souls screaming out against it.

Another fallacy we so readily believe is that creativity equals fame.  People believe that only those people who receive awards or accolades are really creative.  This is absolutely not true.  No trophy, diploma or certificate can make you creative. You are not an artist because your paintings sell for millions of dollars, you are not a writer because you are on the bestseller list.  You are an artist, a sculptor or a creative genius because you are answering the call of your soul.  It is what you do.  You do not need an award to validate your creativity.

So what is creativity?  First of all, I believe that creativity is not something external.  It comes from deep inside of us.  It is like a pearl nestled within an oyster at the bottom of the sea.  Creativity is not confined to any particular object, concept or activity.  We confine it to certain activities like painting, singing or dancing, but in reality, creativity does not exclusively belong to those activities.  Creativity is part of our psyche and it is found all around us and in every area of life.  We do not need to be painters or sculptors to be creative.  We do not need paint or clay. We can be creative scientists or creative stay-at-home mothers.  We can be creative security guards or salespersons.  The way you wear your clothes, that dash of flair or the way you turn ordinary food into culinary delights all testify about the creative master within you.  Creativity is the ability of thinking outside the box, beyond the pre-conceived borders and to find new ways to solve problems.  Creativity is not only coming up with original ideas, but also to take a fresh look at existing ideas and expanding it into new directions.

One of the main reasons we feel that we are not creative is that we have been conditioned into believing we are not.  As a result we have buried our creativity beneath layers of doubt, negative self-talk and excuses.  When it comes to doing anything creative we always push it to the back of the queue, to be done once we have some spare time.  The question now is, can we revive our creativity or is it lost forever?  Great news!  Creativity might get stifled, but it never dies.  It is right there within your soul just waiting to be discovered.

How can we then develop our creative abilities?

First of all, we need to have an open mind.  When we remove our blinkers and open our thoughts, we prepare our minds to receive creative ideas.  In this open minded state we give our imaginations free range and we open ourselves up to inspiration.  Imagination and inspiration is a powerful combination in our creativity arsenal.

Next, we also need to be fearless.  So often we are afraid of failing that we never even start.  It is this fear which hampers us from developing and living out our creativity.  Fear is a self-made barrier between our ego and our creative self.  Fear chains us to the ground, making it impossible for us to take flight.  In order to pursue our creativity we have to be prepared to take risks.

We have to learn to listen to our intuition.  Our intuition is our strongest link to our creative voice.  Steve Jobs said that intuition is more powerful than intellect, yet we often discard our intuition as just a silly notion.  Intuition is that gut feeling we get about something or someone.  It is closely linked to inspiration.  Intuition can help us choose the direction in which to develop our creativity and it can guide our decisions.  However, we need to tune in to our intuition.

We have to give ourselves permission to daydream.  Daydreaming brings us in touch with our subconscious minds.  It is while daydreaming that we often come up with new ideas or fresh solutions to old problems.  It allows us to momentarily step away from the reality and opens up our minds to be more receptive.  Daydreaming helps us to release our imaginations.

We also need to develop our curiosity.  We need to become interested in the world around us.  We have to learn as much as possible, and go with wide open eyes through life.  Explore new ideas, new cultures and be prepared to take on new adventures.

Finally, remember, you are a creative being.  Believe it, live it.  Give heed to the call of creativity.  Create, don't wait for it, but do it for the sake of creating, not as a means to riches or fame, chances are that you will be disappointed.  Yet when we create because we are obedient to the voice within, any fame or fortune which comes our way as a result is a pleasant bonus.

Go on, be stunning!!!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Amongst the Ruins

A while ago we went for a hike in the mountains and we came upon the ruins of an old hotel.  It was a beautiful setting, built against the backdrop of a spectacular mountain.  Not much remained of the hotel and nature was steadily reclaiming its foothold. Despite the dilapidation, life carried on. Wildflowers were growing in amongst the broken tiles of what used to be the foyer and butterflies were happily dancing from bloom to bloom.  An orange tree was growing through the rusted window frame dangling from the corner of a disintegrating wall.  It was eerie standing there in the silence of  a mild summer's day.  Our thoughts turned to the people who must once have crossed the threshold of this scenic little hotel, and somehow the sound of the laughter of long forgotten children was carried on the breeze.

Standing there, I could not help thinking that it was like a metaphor of life.  Sometimes it feels as if our perfectly planned and built lives have ended up in ruins.  We feel all is lost, our foundations are crumbling and weeds are twisting and smothering our dreams.  We look at the perfect lives of others, and we feel shattered and disillusioned.  All our plans came to nothing.  Our blueprints were nothing but castles in the air.  We want to abandon the building.  Yet, all is not lost, the wildflowers and butterflies are proof that life carries on, maybe all we need is a fresh look at where we are, at the good that surrounds us.  Maybe we have to shift our gaze up towards the top of the mountain.

The truth is that what might seem like a ruin to us, may be the foundation of a more beautiful and stronger structure.  It is an opportunity to learn and build something better.  The question is: where do we start?

First of all it takes a mind shift.  Instead of looking at your life and your circumstances and seeing only the ruins and "failures", take note of the lessons learned and the all the possibilities waiting.  Instead of seeing limitations, look beyond at the infinite horizon stretching out ahead.  One thing that we need to learn once and for all, is that our old way of doing things did not work, so try a different approach.  As Doctor Phil has often pointed out, it is foolish to do the same things over and over, but expect different results.  We have to shift our point of view.

I have to pledge to myself to build the life I dream of living one step at a time. Only I, myself, can do it.  Nobody else can do it for me.  There is no knight on a white horse, or a fairy godmother, who is going to come past and with a kiss or wave of a wand, change my life.  I have to go out and catch that horse for myself and ride it.

Next, let go of all the excuses you have lined up as to why you cannot start over, why you cannot achieve success and why you cannot do what you need to do.  Let go of all your crushed hopes, your fear of "failing" again, negativity and destructive self-belief.  You need to let go of all your past baggage so that your hands are free to grasp the new opportunities around you.

Make peace with who you are.  You cannot grow and develop as a person as long as you are at war with yourself.  Develop your good points, your talents and your attributes.  Write them down and celebrate them.  Accept your less favourable characteristics and ask yourself which of those you can improve and turn around to become positive qualities and actively work on them.  Acknowledge and forgive those things that you cannot change.

Focus on your target.  We all have dreams.  Often we have so many dreams, that we do not know where to start.  It is like walking into a confectionery shop and being overwhelmed by all the flavours, colours and textures of the various cakes, tarts, pastries and sweets on offer.  If we do not at least have some idea what we would like to eat, we will battle to make a decision and usually end up wishing we had ordered what the customer at the table next to me is eating!  It is the same with dreams for our lives.  If we do not have a clear idea of what dreams we would like to pursue and for what reason, we often end up looking at other people living their dreams and wishing it were mine!  We have to discover what dreams will satisfy our passion and our life's purpose.  That has to become our target.  Then we must focus all our attention on that one target, that ultimate goal.  I have to know what type of building I want to build before I can start putting one brick on top of the other.

Now, the work starts.  I have to actively pursue my dream every day.  I have to prioritize it and schedule it.  I have to be relentless in reaching my goal every day. I have to fill my days with all aspects of my goal.  Read about it, research it, do the things I need to do in order to get my plan off the ground and into production.  Reach out to experts in the field and learn from them.  Every day and every effort will bring you closer to your target.

Never, ever give up!!!!  It is very human to get tired and to feel like giving up when we do not see the results we are expecting or anticipating.  We lose heart and become despondent.  Now is the time to persevere.  Be patient with the process, but also with yourself.  Anything worthwhile always takes time.  Have faith in your dream and faith in yourself.  Never doubt your dream and do not let anything or anybody distract you from your dream.  Know that in your pursuit of your dream, there will be ups and downs.  There will be moments when everything will seem to go wrong, but, do not be thrown from the tracks, focus on your goal and take heart.  The times of difficulties and setbacks will pass.  It will always go better again.  Never quit!

Now, get to it, build your life, brick by brick, and do not forget to have FUN in the process!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Created Equal

Butterflies are the most beautiful insects on the planet.  It is said that new butterfly species are still being discovered every day, but it is estimated that there are about 28 000 different species of butterflies.  No two butterflies are exactly the same, not even within the same species as the colour of every butterfly varies slightly from another one. Yet, despite their variety, they all share the same characteristics.  In their uniqueness there is a sameness.  They have all been created equal.

As you may have read by now, for those of you who have been following my posts, I am a great advocate about being and loving the unique human being you have been created to be.  However, today, I want us to take a look at us as having also been created equal.

Most parents make sure that they raise their children on copious amounts of praise.  When a toddler gives his first step, a chorus of loving voices raises up and cheers him on to take another step.  When a pre-schooler comes home with her first pink and orange blob with a note scribbled beneath by her teacher to inform us that the Rorschach stain is a dog, we declare her the next Picasso and show her artwork to anybody who ventures near.  Praise is good.  Our children need our praise.  They need this very biased encouragement.  It helps to build their self-esteem and inspires them to try harder and achieve more.  It gives them confidence to go out into the world and claim their place.  However, it is important to also keep our children grounded.  While teaching them how special and unique they are, they also need to learn to respect and value the uniqueness of others. 

We have to teach them that beneath our exteriors and deeper than our psyche, at the very core of our beings we all are the same.  We all have the same dreams and hopes.  We all have fears and worries.  Every one  has their own insecurities.  We all bleed the same. It does not matter if a person is of royal descent or hardly know the name of a single ancestor, whether a person is an acclaimed academic or an unknown pauper, we have all been created equal.  We have no right to look down on anybody or to despise another human being.  We were all born the same and will die the same.  We cannot take along our riches or our trophies.

When we believe ourselves to be superior to others and when we regard ourselves as more special or of more significance we lose touch with our true self and with reality.  When we think of ourselves as being above another person or group, we actually isolate ourselves and miss out on interesting and meaningful relationships.

I am not saying to go ahead and indiscriminately befriend every person you encounter, but I do suggest that you dismiss your pre-conceived ideas and give people the benefit of the doubt before you merely dismiss them as beneath your status, intellect, values or ability.  You might just be amazed by the amazing people you meet.  When you value others for who they really are, you in turn will be valued for the wonderful, unique person you are.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017


I am sure you will agree with me when I say that we all have times in our lives when we feel insecure and we start doubting ourselves.  It feels as if we are floundering in the tides of life and we have lost focus.  We become overwhelmed by everything and everyone around us. Peace seems to be evading us.
If you feel this way, I have one word for you today: Embrace.  Learn to embrace.  Embrace what, you may ask?  I invite you to read on...


...the Past.

Yes, I know, we are usually told to let go of the past, but I want to tell you that you cannot let go of the past until you have embraced it.
Our past is often filled with many instances of pain and resentment.  The past is made up of huge pieces of blame and regret.  We have all had our share of grief and bitter disappointments.  It is littered with the broken pieces of our hearts.  Yet, the past is filled with life lessons. Every event, every tear and every moment of joy have brought us to this point in life.  Without the past which shaped and molded us, we would not have gained the insight and character we have presently.  Embrace the past for what it has taught you and embrace it for all the good it has given you.  Embrace the past for every person who was a part of it and for every experience it has given you.  Make peace with its heartache, the delights and the tough times it brought you.  Embrace it for all it was and then let it go.

...this Moment.

So often we spend precious time wishing our lives were different now.  We reminisce about the good old days and we dream about tomorrow, a better job or better friendships.  We obsess about living a different life from the one we are living now, imagining different circumstances or surroundings.  In the process we forget to be alive in this moment.  The fact is that we cannot ever walk back into the past and the future is nothing more than a date on the calender.  The only thing that is real is this very moment.  Very often it is what I do with this moment, which determines the quality of my future.  Thus, I have to embrace this moment I am living in now.  Embrace the way life is right now, value the friendships you have right now and the circumstances you are experiencing now.  Everything happening right now is teaching us and shaping us.  When we acknowledge where we are, who we are and what is happening right now in our lives and embrace it for all this moment is giving us, then we will have the means and wisdom to change our lives once this day, this moment, is in the past.  We can call it a day well lived, and we can embrace it for what it has given us and what it has taught us.  Embrace this here and now and live life to the fullest right now.


Most of us are creatures of habit.  We tend to resist change.  We get up at a certain time, we usually order our favourite foods and wear that beloved sweater until it unravels at the seams. We resent people or events that threaten to disrupt the routine of our lives.  We hold onto the familiar with a vengeance. Yet change is the one constant in life.  Change is important in our development as human beings.  Through change we grow in maturity and wisdom.  Change opens up new horizons and new experiences which in turn open up our minds to new possibilities. I urge you to let go of your set ways and your set ideas. Relax and let go of your narrow view of what life should be like and instead embrace what life is giving you.  Allow it to surprise you. Embrace change.


When we talk about love, respect and forgiveness, we all agree that it is not too difficult to love others and to respect them.  We can even manage to forgive other people.  Yet, when it comes to ourselves, we are far less loving, respectful and forgiving.  However, loving others, first of all, begins with loving yourself.  One of the ten commandments states "..love others as you love yourself", thus, our love for others are determined by the love we have for ourselves.  When we are angry with ourselves, and we feel embittered and resentful towards ourselves, we are busy poisoning ourselves.  When we constantly batter ourselves about our past "mistakes" and "failures" we become despondent.  We start to believe that we are not good enough.  We believe that we have not been destined for success.  We start comparing ourselves to other people.  We lose faith in ourselves and our abilities.  To have inner peace it is of utmost importance to stop blaming myself and to start forgiving myself.  I have to acknowledge and embrace the unique person that I am.  I have to celebrate who I am, the way I do things and the distinctive qualities which I possess.  When I embrace myself, it becomes so much easier to find peace.

...the Positive.

Every action we take in life begins with one thing: a thought.  In the Bible we read that a ship is steered by a rudder and so our lives are steered by our thoughts.  With the world in such a state of chaos all around us, it is very easy to focus on everything that is wrong.  We get trapped by thoughts of worry and fear.  We look at our own lives and circumstances and our thoughts start drowning out any positive thoughts.  Negativity seeps into our thoughts and conversations.  We start to listen to the negative opinions of other people and their words become fodder for our thoughts.  We start believing our thoughts.  It is important to start filtering what influences and what words we allow into our minds.  Put them through the negativity filter and only allow those things through which are charged with positive energy. Ban any negativity from your life, avoid people who speak words that break down or discourage.  Fill your life with people who speak life and fill your world with positive energy.  Negative energy is like a black hole, it sucks everything into its dark abyss.  Positivity fills our lives with light and delight.  Embrace all that is positive.

Practise these five principles in your life and watch how your world becomes a place of peace and joy.  Through practising these five points you will once again find the focus and energy you felt you were lacking.  Above all Embrace Life!!!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Winter Wonder

Here in the Southern Hemisphere it is winter, and although it has not been a particularly cold one yet, it is still cold enough for me to not be very comfortable!  They say that butterflies don't fly if their body temperature is less than 30 degrees C.  Well, I feel like a butterfly, no flying for me.  I just flutter my wings ever so slightly.  I am the most unproductive human being during the winter months, my body is constantly crying out in protest!  I love the summer, the warmth of the sun energizes me and lifts my spirit to unknown heights.  Yet, the winter has a magical beauty to it.  When the sun just pushes its face from underneath the night's blanket and its first fragile rays catch on the frosty icicles covering the grass, it is like a wonderland which unfolds. The waterdrops glisten like diamonds.  Foggy tendrils float above the water pond, and one can almost imagine fairies scurrying away before human eyes can see them.  Although Winter is my least favourite season, I need the winter and I cannot imagine living in a place where there is little or no winter, it is as if my very essence needs this time of hibernation. It is a time for quiet reflection.  Without Winter, Spring would be less miraculous, Summer less abundant.  In Life, too, we learn to truly appreciate the beauty of Summer, because of the winter. It is this contrast that reveals the beauty, the wonder and the joy of the good times.  Winter is to me like the wrapping around a present.  It excites me, because I know that underneath its cold layer, tender green leaves are waiting to burst forth and rejoice!!  So enjoy this time of snuggling beneath the warm covers, it will soon pass. If you flutter by here, please share your thoughts on the Seasons with me, I would love to hear from you.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Take Five

Busy, busy, busy.  We are all so busy, we are like bees swarming around all day and have no time spare for anything or anybody, and even less time for ourselves.  So, since we are so busy, I thought I would like to take five minutes of your time to share five B's with you.  I want you to take these five little B's and try to implement one into each day of this week.

Here goes:


When you wake up, I want you to first of all take a deep breath.  Let it fill your chest, let it fill every space within your body, hold it... hold it... and breathe out.  Empty your lungs and with it also exhale all your worries, that tension in your shoulders and all the stress that has accumulated in your thoughts.  Again, breathe in, let fresh oxygen fill your lungs, allow it to flow into your body and let the morning light follow it into your eyes, your mind and your thoughts.  Hold it... hold it... then slowly let it out.  Let all the negativity flow out with the carbon dioxide.  Do this a few times during the day when you have a quiet moment, whether it is between calls, or answering e-mails or before going into a stressful meeting.  We think of breathing as automatic and we hardly spare it a thought, but the truth is that we hardly ever take deep breaths.  Breathing deeply helps to improve blood flow and reduces blood pressure and it can help to clear our minds.

Be Gentle.

Life is demanding.  We are constantly under pressure to perform better, deliver more and act faster.  In the process, we also demand more of ourselves and there is no harsher critic than the one within.  Be gentle with yourself, give yourself credit for what you have done.  Stop focussing on your mistakes and shortcomings.  Stop comparing yourself with others around you, but celebrate your uniqueness.  Be gentle, also with other people who share your space.  Stop looking at their imperfections, but look for ways to encourage and inspire them.

Be Aware.

We rush through our days at such a speed that life becomes a blur along the way.  At the end of a hectic day we can hardly recall what the weather was like, what we had for lunch or whether that new guy in the office were even at work today.  We never noticed the sad look in our child's eyes.  Slow down and take time to walk through life in the present.  Get off the speeding bus and pay attention to what is happening around you and within you.  Become aware of your heartbeat, your intuition and the space around you.  Be alive in the moment.

Be Open.

We are so occupied with the daily grind and chasing deadlines that we have little time to explore new avenues and we are often too tired to give any thought to new ideas. Do you remember a time when you were filled with enthusiasm and the thought of trying something new filled you with excitement.  Time and the pressures of living have a way of dulling our zest, and we become rigid in our ways.Our lives become stagnant.  It is important to challenge ourselves daily o become more open-minded.  Having an open mind can open up new horizons and give us new outcomes to old problems.  An open mind is invigorating. Being open-minded sets us free from a life of boredom.

Be still.

Life can be demanding and very, very loud.  It can drown out our own voice, the call of our own hearts.  We run the risk of becoming deaf to the voices of our loved ones, and even the voice of our own dreams.  We have to actively step outside and close the door to the demands daily living screams at us.  We have to take a moment to be still, to once again hear our own heartbeat, to listen to the whispers of our hopes and dreams and hear the song buried within our heart. Be still and re-connect with yourself.

Just five little things, but they are sure to make your week just a little more pleasant, a little more focussed on those things that truly matter.  Be blessed this week.